German Chocolate Cake


This super-indulgent dessert features layers of light chocolate cake and sweet coconut-pecan frosting.

Active Time:
45 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 30 mins
8 to 10

German chocolate cake is a chocolate layer cake layered with a coconut-pecan frosting. This recipe uses sweetened and condensed milk and egg yolks as the base of the frosting, creating a delightfully sticky sweet contrast to the rich chocolate cakes.

Despite its name, this cake is not of German origin. It gets its name from the creator of the chocolate that was originally used in the cake, Samuel German, who worked for Baker’s Chocolate Company. He created a sweeter variety of dark chocolate that is marketed under the name Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate. 

A century after the creation of the chocolate two things happened — General Mills purchased Baker’s Chocolate Company and a Texas homemaker, Ms. George Clay, had her recipe for German’s Chocolate Cake published in the Dallas Morning Star. General Mills took notice and distributed the recipe throughout the United States under the name German Chocolate Cake.



  • Cooking spray

  • 1 ½ sticks softened unsalted butter

  • 7 ounces semisweet chocolate (finely chopped)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 1 ¾ cups sugar

  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  • 3 eggs (large at room temperature)

  • 1 egg yolk (large at room temperature)

  • 1 cup buttermilk


  • 3 ½ cups pecan halves , divided

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter (plus 2 tablespoons at room temperature)

  • 28 ounces sweetened condensed milk (2 cans)

  • ¾ cup light brown sugar (packed)

  • 5 large egg yolks

  • 10 ounces sweetened shredded coconut (3 cups)

  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt


Make the cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two 9-inch baking pans and line bottoms of pans with parchment paper.

  2. Set a heatproof bowl in a saucepan over simmering water, making sure bottom of bowl does not touch water. Add chopped chocolate and melt, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Alternatively, melt chocolate in a microwave. Let cool slightly.

  3. In a medium bowl, whisk flour with cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Add eggs and egg yolk 1 at a time, beating between additions. Beat in vanilla. Reduce mixer to low speed, beat in buttermilk and flour mixture in 3 alternating batches, ending with flour mixture. Fold in melted chocolate until incorporated.

  4. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake cake until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer cake pans to a cooling rack for about 25 minutes, then remove cakes from pans, peel off parchment paper, and cool on rack until firm, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the frosting

  1. Toast pecan halves in 350°F oven until lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool. Coarsely chop toasted pecans. In a large saucepan over moderately low heat, combine butter, condensed milk, and brown sugar, and cook, whisking frequently, until butter has melted, sugar has dissolved, and mixture is smooth, about 3 minutes. Remove pot from heat and slowly whisk egg yolks into sugar mixture. Return pot to heat and cook over low heat, whisking constantly (switching to a heat-proof rubber spatula, as needed) until it begins to bubble and thicken, about 8 minutes. Transfer frosting to a large bowl and stir in 3 cups of the pecans and the coconut, vanilla, and salt; let cool completely, 1 hour.

  2. Using a spoon or offset spatula, spread half of the frosting evenly over one cake. Top with the second cake layer and spread the remaining frosting on top. Garnish with the remaining pecans.

    German Chocolate Cake
    © Amy Neunsinger

Make Ahead

The cake can be stored in an airtight container overnight, then refrigerated for 2 days. Serve at room temperature.

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